Country is a surpisingly specific, indeed rather difficult genre, rarely employed in the South African music industry. However, Benoni-based band, Crystal Park, have expertly combined the middle-American sound with a folk-rock edge to create a distinctively unique brand of the genre. Formed five years ago, the band comprises of Steve East (bass, vocals), Tenn Elliot (vocals), Joe Cole (acoustic guitar, vocals), Calvin “The Kid” (drums), Brad Wooldridge (percussion), with Fred “The Hound” Van Der Merwe adding the necessary western flavour with electric guitar, banjo and ukulele.
While Crystal Park are somewhat older than most of the bands currently dominating our local scene, they come with years of professional performance work under their belts, contributing a wide variety of experience to the band as a whole.
Their sound is a refreshing take on modern country music: upbeat and laced with twanging banjo, jangling guitar and heavy percussion. While their folk-rock elements tone down the sound, bringing it just short of cowboy boots and lassos, they maintain a strongly atypical constituent which sets them apart from a music scene which is largely dominated by indie-rock bands. Their songs are peppered with tambourine, harmonica, off-kilter moments and unpredictable rhythms, while their archetypal Joburg accent takes you by surprise as they drop the deep, rocky Texan inflections to thank the crowd at the close of their performance.
With an album due to be released next year and a main stage performance at OppiKoppi Fantastic Mr Vos Vos under their belts, Crystal Park’s invigorating country sound is a wonderfully unusual component of our local music scene.